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At Dallas Museum Of Art Exhibition, Jim Hodges Tells Poignant Stories Of Love And Loss

Dallas Museum of Art
With the Wind, one of the pieces in the Jim Hodges exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art.

In its first museum partnership with the highly-respected Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dallas Museum of Art mounts an artist’s first solo museum presentation. 

KERA contributor Joan Davidow shows us how this exhibition, Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take, highlights 25 years of turning ordinary materials and overlooked craft into powerful artworks. The exhibition closes Jan. 12 at the Dallas Museum of Art.

When an artist grows up in the midst of grand nature, playing in the dirt and making things with leaves and rocks, his art reflects the love of the earth.  When he grows up watching his mom sew and mend, the love of materials sneaks into his artmaking.

As a newly minted artist, Jim Hodges was unhappy making paintings and took a colleague’s sage advice: “You don’t have to paint!”

He packed away the paints and began art-making with odd materials on the studio floor not knowing what would evolve -- and something wonderful happened. Using unusual materials, he transforms traditional craft – mosaics, quilting, gold leaf – that hearken back to an earlier era.

The entry wall of DMA’s Barrel Vault is studded with fake flowers -- a casual array of bits and pieces of cheap artificial flowers. They show the playful yet refined hand of Hodges, who found a way to express himself with non-traditional materials. 

The title tells it all: Give More than you Take. He’s making something out of nothing and giving the viewer plenty to digest. His work inspires others to use unusual materials and methods. This is an artist’s artist. Dallas artist Linnea Glatt, who inventively uses her sewing machine to create delicately drawn lines, says: “Hodges gives me courage to do these things.”

How can a wall of cheap, torn-apart fake flowers look so good? Or a huge hanging of silk scarves floating against another wall. These are personal things -- the things that touch us. 

“He plays with things everyone else takes for granted,” says Linda Ridgway, an artist who bronzes dying flowers.

Besides the ephemeral, misty poetic pieces that seem so delicate and transparent, Hodges makes tough stuff. 

The earliest piece in the exhibition, a black ski mask the artist pulled apart and rewove, stares down at the viewer. Needing other materials to use in his art, Hodges succumbed to the urge to break a mirror, smashing it from behind. 

In my mind, a broken mirror signals bad luck, but for Hodges, mirror fragments became another material. The cracks even look like flower petals. Bits and pieces of hand-carved, mosaic mirror-chips form rectangles, and large glowing, moon-sized orbs hang high on the museum’s walls.

Read Davidow’s full review -- and see videos -- at KERA’s Art&Seek.

Joan Davidow is an adjunct professor teaching contemporary art survey in SMU’s MLS degree program.